Pastor’s Corner June 17, 2018

On this Father’s Day, I think back to when I was eleven and I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Though I had no idea what profession in which I would end up, I always knew that I wanted to be a father. I have been sure of this fact since I was three years old and playing house with my sister. I used to pretend to change diapers and play with her dolls much more than she played with my G.I. Joes or Transformers. It made me feel accomplished to be a caregiver.

That continues today. I have been blessed with a wonderful marriage that bore two fantastic children. Turner, my oldest, is a sensitive and sweet boy that makes me proud every day of his emotional intelligence and positive demeanor. He cares so deeply for others and tries to do his best always. Nia, my five-year-old daughter, is brilliantly feisty and powerful. She can look you in the eye and tell you “no” with certainty in her position or cuddle for an hour during family movie nights. She is sweet and strong and carries a confidence about her that makes me a bit jealous.

They both bring such an immense amount of joy to my life it is hard to put into words. I watch them as they sleep and cover them with a blanket when they are cold and my heart fills with life. We tell terrible jokes around the dinner table and I marvel at how their laughs sound just like mine. We sing songs in the car and I look at them in disbelief, (mostly because they know all the words but can’t remember to feed the dog). I pick them up from school and relish the moment when I take them into my arms and squeeze them. We wrestle and I tickle them until they squeal.

I know this does not last forever, and when times get tough, I tell myself about the wonderful things that I get to experience with them every day. Turner will be in fourth grade next year and he is already leaps and bounds smarter and more precocious than I was as a child. Nia will be in kindergarten and she already knows her numbers, letters and can write several words.

I am so proud to be their dad. I try not to cling too tightly to their childhood and make sure they have the room to grow and become the man and woman they were meant to be. But it is hard. I know these moments are fleeting. Yesterday, I was changing diapers and cleaning bottles. Tomorrow, I will be going to graduations and paying for college. And before you know it, I will be Grandpa Hank.

The best I can do is continue to be the consistent force in their life that teaches love and compassion, grit and toughness, and confidence in what they are and who they are. Because being the father of these two children in partnership with my wife is exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Happy Father’s Day
Matt Hankins


Pastor’s Corner June 10, 2018

The Third Place

If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. — 1 Corinthians 12:26 NRSV

 

The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference published an article written by Kristina Gonzalez, Director of Leadership Development for an Inclusive Church for the PNW Conference. The article, titled What Can Methodists Learn From Starbucks?[1] discusses the approach the corporation Starbucks has taken to systemwide unconscious bias and racism. The company took a day-long pause on May 29 for a systemwide training and reflection time in response to an incident in a Philadelphia store earlier this spring when a store manager summoned law enforcement to confront two Black men simply waiting for a friend to arrive. Starbucks apologized to the men, and the manager was fired.

 

This came in the middle of many public dismissals: perpetrators of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace immediately fired without question, public social media rants becoming grounds for immediate cancellation and dismissal, and many more cases of strict and swift (thankfully!) consequences. For myself, I see this as relief in the midst of severe leniency and ignorance from the past decades. Gonzalez writes about the absence of systemic responses to issues that allow discrimination or abuse to go unchecked. Starbucks, though may not be everyone’s favorite coffee shop, has taken significant and unpopular steps to address bias systemwide.

 

Starbucks was founded on the principle of Third Place: a gathering place outside of home and work. It is to be a place of relaxation, interaction, meeting, debating, reading, enjoying coffee and tea in community. The training, along with reflecting on bias in our society, staff dreamt about how to create public spaces where everyone feels like they belong. Then, Starbucks made their training materials public, providing model ideas for others.

 

Check them out here: https://starbuckschannel.com/thethirdplace/

 

What are your Third Places? Is the church one of your places? Where are our embedded biases? Gonzalez points out the reality that the people called Methodists have had countless moments in our history similar to Starbucks’ moment. How did we respond? Often, it has been to split or segregate. What if we didn’t? What if we did something different? What if we reflected on our biases and then dreamt of how to create space of Third Places…where everyone feels like they belong–because they do?

 

Peace,

 

Pastor Sami

[1] http://www.pnwumc.org/news/what-can-methodists-learn-from-starbucks/



Pastor’s Corner June 3, 2018

Hidden Meanings
 
When my girls were in elementary school, they loved playing hide-and-go-seek in our house. They had great fun. Though, what I never understood at the time was how they always hid in the same place. The seeker would look casually all over the house, but pretty soon, she’d look in the pantry and squeal in delight when she found someone in there. And someone always hid in the pantry. As a competitive adult, it never made sense to me. Why did they always hide in the same place? Why not find a more challenging place so you weren’t so easily found? Then one day I got it, it’s because the fun is not in sitting hidden in some obscure location forever while people are looking for you. The fun is in being found! The squeals of delight taught me that.

Jesus teaches in parables. Riddle-like stories that in a round-a-bout way teach truth about the kingdom of God. Why didn’t Jesus just come straight out and tell the truth in simple statements instead of hiding it in an obscure story about common experience? One reason is the parables draw us in and cause us to think. Then when we figure it out and discover the truth within, it’s like finding your sister in the pantry. There is joy in discovering what is hidden!

The parables of Jesus are simple statements or short stories drawn from common experience with a surprising twist. They are designed to make us think and to see things in new ways. The point of the parable lies in the reversal, the unusual image, or the new twist. The problem is we are so familiar with the parables and we are so distanced from the ancient near eastern culture, the parables lose their shock value.

This summer in worship we will be revisiting the parables of Jesus. We will explore the original cultural setting and see how they capture the mystery of the kingdom of God. Along the way we may even squeal in delight as we discover what is hidden! Parables are not intended to be nice comfortable stories to memorize and keep in our heart. They are designed to capture our imagination, to make us think, to make us squirm, and to cause us to respond.

If you would like to go deeper, join me and Sami in discussion each Sunday beginning June 17th (at 9:00 am at Covenant and at 9:30 at St. Paul’s). Each Sunday we will address the parable we are preaching on, drawing on Jill-Amy Levine’s book Short Stories of Jesus. The book is available for $10 and each week is independent, so drop in when you can!

 

Walking on the path of grace,

Pastor Patti



Pastor’s Corner May 27, 2018

The Bold Energy of God

 

Harriett Jane Olson addressed the attendees of the United Methodist Women (UMW) this last week at their annual assembly with the declaration that the bold energy of God resides in us. This is a message that can be easily stated but harder to believe sometimes. Our actions or words can feel empty in the shadow of pain and injustice. But, just as the group has strived from their inception, UMW continues to back up words with actions and movements.

 

“I believe United Methodist Women is as needed today as it has ever been,” Olson said. “We are in a position to make a change; we are everywhere; and we are connected.” Coming after a week of frustration and confusion over failed amendments dealing with gender equality[1] among the United Methodist Church, Olson and other key leaders, including bishops, exemplified the bold energy of God by standing up for the much-needed work the UMW completes each and every day. They called everyone to believe the words, and to then live into that energy.

 

“This is not who we understand The United Methodist Church to be,” Olson said. Many bishops stood with Olson and the UMW as well. Bishop Cynthia Harvey from the Louisiana area stated “We need to tell the stories of our work,” Harvey said. The assembly focused on four main social justice topics: economic injustice, climate justice, maternal and child health, and mass incarceration with an emphasis on stopping the crib-to-prison pipeline.

 

These are difficult topics to discuss and form plans to eradicate them. When hearing statistics about any of these topics, it is easy to get overwhelmed and not believe that the bold energy is working.

But it is. I believe the UMW Assembly is proof of that. Like Olson said, we are in a position to make a change, we are everywhere, and we are connected. This week is Peace with Justice Sunday for the wider United Methodist Church. We are needed now more than ever. Our message of love over fear, our story of justice over vengeance—our dream of a better world—it is all needed now more than ever. These gifts on special Sundays are also proof of the bold energy of God at work through our connection and our influence.

When you give today, you will help Methodists spearhead a peace ministry uniting Arizona border communities, equipping United Methodists in Liberia to implement the denomination’s Social Principles to address social-justice issue, helping Pennsylvania students educate their community about sex-trafficking at home and abroad, plus much, much more.

May you believe in the bold energy of God working within your life, and may you share that truth with others.

Peace,

Pastor Sami

[1] http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/women-grieve-amendment-failures-vow-to-work-harder